Archive for the TV Reports Category

UFC 128 Recap & Results

Posted in TV Reports, UFC on March 21, 2011 by jaytan716

There aren’t a lot of high-profile notes to come out of UFC 128, but the one angle that fans and the fight community will be talking about for the next few months, Jon Jones’ winning the UFC light heavyweight title from Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua and the ramifications of Jones’ first title defense, is as layered and complicated as if Quentin Tarantino wrote a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book.

With Jones, a member of Greg Jackson’s MMA team in Albuquerque, NM, now the 205 lb. champion, he is scheduled to face ‘Sugar’ Rashad Evans in his first UFC title defense. Evans is / was a friend and teammate of Jones at Jackson’s (see related videos below), and has seniority both in terms of team membership as well as title ownership (Evans won the light heavyweight championship from Forrest Griffin at UFC 92). Evans did say to’s Ariel Helwani that he would be leaving Jackson’s in order to prepare for his challenge against Jones, though Jackson noted that some things said in the heat of the moment don’t always stand the test of time.

Ariel Helwani ( interviews Rashad Evans here:

Ariel Helwani ( interviews Greg Jackson here:

Needless to say, the ‘training triangle’ storyline has its characters. Evans was the heel in the build-up for his match against Quentin ‘Rampage’ Jackson, largely by default, as Rampage was too comedic and fun-loving to hate. Ironically, Evans was also the perennial underdog throughout his rise to the top.

Jones is a fresh face, a young wunderkind fighter, and all-around nice boy, accentuated by his infamous crime-stopping incident in the hours before the fight. If you haven’t already heard the story, here’s the play-by-play by Jones himself:

With all these roles (which fans will force on Jones and Evans anyway) played right, coupled with the mixed emotions of team allegiance, friendship, and proving oneself the best in the world, Jones-Evans could end up being a more powerful ‘storylines-to-Fight-Night’ than even Evans-Jackson (which was one of the UFC’s biggest pay-per-view events of all-time). Where does Evans go to train? Do fans cast him as the heel (my guess is yes), and how does that affect him? Does Greg Jackson truly stay out of this match, and what will all fight teams take away from this experience of having teammates square off for not just a championship, but ‘The Championship?’

Jones-Evans also points to a developing issue regarding fighters’ careers and team allegiances. As fights get more competitive, fighters seek out higher-level training partners in the same weight classes, some of whom are in the same promotion and perhaps on track for title shots. As gyms / team gather more high-level fighters and form larger teams, the more competitive, reputable schools grow bigger and the smaller ones fall off. Moreover, teammate vs. teammate crossroads become more frequent.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this happen, and in fact not even the first time Jackson’s MMA has faced it. In late 2007, then-welterweight Diego Sanchez left the team and relocated to San Diego, CA after reigning welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre joined the Jackson team. In several interviews, Sanchez noted in several interviews that part of his motivation was that St-Pierre’s addition both came at the detriment of Sanchez’ training, and also was forced encouragement for Sanchez to drop down to lightweight (155 lbs.).

Likewise, when Tito Ortiz was the UFC light heavyweight champ and Chuck Liddell’s star was on the rise, Ortiz claimed that they had an agreement that they’d never fight each other for the title. Liddell always denied that such an agreement ever existed.

Team alliances in a one-on-one sport like boxing or MMA are difficult. The team benefits financially from its fighters winning championships, but teammates don’t directly benefit from each others’ victories. For fighters at any level, whether the Jones-Evans-St-Pierre-Sanchez stratus or among the young aspiring fighters who take their team and training environment seriously, it’s a choice that everyone makes at some point. Some will forego their Big Shot and some will eschew team alliances for the opportunity for their own individual success. Both choices are right.

There’s little else to note about UFC 128. Brendan Schaub, a former AFL and NFL football player who transitioned into MMA via season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, defeated aging legend Mirko Cro Cop with a third round TKO. Cro Cop is 3-3 since his return to the UFC, not wholly embarrassing, but certainly not the record for which he’d want to be known. The bigger and more relevant knock is that his unbeatable aura is very much a thing of the past. Combined with what is surely a hefty price tag, this is likely Cro Cop’s last hurrah in the UFC (at least for the time being). For Schaub, it continues to build his name as a future title contender.

Urijah Faber defeated Eddie Wineland by unanimous decision, which is a win that needed to happen for the UFC’s plans with Faber to go forward. The promotion is greatly behind Faber’s star potential, and understandably so. The guy is a tremendous athlete with an easygoing, polite charm and poster boy good looks. His was the only name that popped WEC ratings on the Versus network, and he was a great straight-man to Kenny Fucking Powers in the K-Swiss Tubes commercials. Moreover, there’s been talk of Faber and UFC 135 lb. champion Dominick Cruz coaching season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter (though Dana White denied that to Ariel Helwani in their post-fight interview). Had Wineland won, Cruz vs. Wineland would have been a tougher season to promote.

However, Faber didn’t look dominant in this match, having difficulty landing takedowns and, for much of the match, being stuck in Wineland’s clinch. Watching the match, part of me truly wondered if Faber hasn’t already hit his athletic prime. He’s been fighting since 2003, and went on a 13-fight win streak from 2005 to 2008, with only one of those victories going to decision (his one-sided domination of Jens Pulver at WEC 34). Streaks like that aren’t typically repeatable, and although the Wineland match marked his second win at 135 lbs., I question whether we’ll see Faber’s MMA career dominance coincide with his newfound exposure as an official UFC star.

Here’s how my predictions and reality turned out for Event:

145 lbs. – Raphael Assuncao x Erik Koch:
Prediction: Assuncao via decision
Result: Koch via KO (round one)

185 lbs. – Constantinos Philippou x Nick Catone:
Prediction: Catone via TKO (round one)
Result: Catone via unanimous decision (30-27 across the board)

135 lbs. – Joseph Benavidez x Ian Loveland:
Prediction: Benavidez via submission (round two)
Result: Benavidez via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

155 lbs. – Kurt Pellegrino x Gleison Tibau:
Prediction: Pellegrino via unanimous decision
Result: Tibau via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)

170 lbs. – Mike Pyle x Ricardo Almeida:
Prediction: Almeida via submission (round three)
Result: Pyle via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27) though apparently scores were 29-28 across the board

155 lbs. – Anthony Njokuani x Edson Barboza, Jr.:
Prediction: Barboza via KO (round two)
Result: Barboza via unanimous decision (29-28 across the board)

205 lbs. – Elliot Marshall x Luiz Cane:
Prediction: Marshall via decision
Result: Cane via TKO (round one)

265 lbs. – Brendan Schaub x Mirko Cro Cop:
Prediction: Schaub via TKO (round three)
Result: Schaub via TKO (round three)

185 lbs. – Nate Marquardt x Dan Miller:
Prediction: Marquardt by TKO (round one)
Result: Marquardt via unanimous decision (30-27 across the board)

155 lbs. – Kamal Shalorus x Jim Miller:
Prediction: Shalorus via unanimous decision
Result: Miller via TKO (round three)

135 lbs. – Urijah ‘The California Kid’ Faber x Eddie Wineland:
Prediction: Faber via submission (round one or two)
Result: Faber via unanimous decision (29-28 across the board)

205 lbs. (UFC Light Heavyweight Title) – Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua x Jon ‘Bones’ Jones:
Prediction: Jones via TKO (round three or four)
Result: Jones via TKO (round three)

The Finish

Not every UFC event is going to be remembered as one for the ages. If anything, UFC 128 will be marked as the night when an amazing young talent got his chance to reign supreme and start his path to potential crossover superstardom. Of course, in fighting his friend, Jon Jones first challenge will be a personal and physical test.

“UFC on Versus 3: Sanchez vs. Kampmann” and “Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson” Results & Recap

Posted in Strikeforce, TV Reports, UFC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 6, 2011 by jaytan716

Photo Credits: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images (UFC); Esther Lin (Strikeforce)

This weekend, MMA fans were treated to live events from the UFC, Strikeforce, and Bellator (debuting on its new MTV2 broadcast home).

Diego Sanchez (left) and Martin Kampmann fought to a controverisal unanimous decision.

The UFC’s third Versus event only accentuated the judging and scoring issues that came out of the BJ Penn vs. Jon Fitch match at UFC 127 several days earlier. In the Versus 3 main event, the rebooted Diego ‘The Dream’ Sanchez beat Martin ‘The Hitman’ Kampmann by unanimous decision, off scores of 29-28 across the board. This was Sanchez’ return to the welterweight division.

The fight was a thrilling three-round slugfest which served as a case study in how a close striking match is judged, particularly as it regards otherwise-tiebreaker criteria, such as takedown attempts and overall damage.

The repackaged and rededicated Sanchez, who moved back to Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, NM and went so far to wash the negative demons out of his life that he flipped his nickname from ‘The Nightmare’ to ‘The Dream,’ is still a very intense and angry-looking young man. During the match itself, Sanchez kept shooting in for takedowns, but was unsuccessful in 12 attempts going into the third round. Kampmann attempted none thoughout the whole match.

The striking was closely-debated. Kampmann bloodied Sanchez in the first round, and made that nasty cut worse in the second. In the second, Sanchez stunned Kampmann, who wobbled on his feet, but never hit the floor. Sanchez opened Kampmann up in the third, but not to the same extent as the visual damage Sanchez took thoughout the whole match.

For me, the argument came down to a Kampmann’s striking accuracy and damage vs. Sanchez’ overwhelming onslaught of punches in bunches, which were fast and powerful, but didn’t do as much visual damage.

All three judges scored the bout 29-28 for Sanchez. Most likely they gave Kampmann the first and Sanchez the second and third, though after the fight, fans, media, and experts alike continued to debate who won which round.

Sanchez vs. Kampmann highlights

In other action that night, Mark Munoz continued to build his stock in the middleweight division with a 54-second knockout of C.B. Dollaway, the teammate of Aaron Simpson, whom Munoz beat at UFC 123 last November. At 10-2, Munoz is not quite in the title picture yet, and if Anderson Silva is still the Chairman of the Board if / when Munoz does become a top contender, it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Munoz and Silva are close training partners at Black House MMA. Manager Ed Soares has told me in the past that they wouldn’t prevent teammates from challenging teammates for titles. Munoz will likely need to test his meddle against strikers, or revisit his loss to Yushin Okami, but for now, the ‘Philippine Wrecking Machine’ (I think the original version of Munoz’ nickname) continues to show-and-prove.

UFC on Versus: Mark Munoz post-fight interview

Also at middleweight, UFC fans also were introduced to Chris Weidman, an undefeated young prospect out of Matt Serra and Ray Longo’s camp. Weidman, an NCAA All-American from New York’s Hofstra University, made his UFC debut with only four pro matches under his belt, bloodying up veteran Alessio Sakara in dominant fashion. Weidman had problems sticking takedowns early, charging in several times and missing at least three legitimate takedown shots, but he found his distance in round two and three, taking Sakara to the mat and painting a crimson mask on the man they call ‘Legionarius.’

UFC on Versus: Chris Weidman post-fight interview

Moreover, fans were treated to two swing bouts, Todd Brown vs. Igor Pokrajac and Shane Roller vs. Thiago Tavares, used to fill the Versus time slot. In that latter match, I think I expected to see a three-round kickboxing match that would showcase unexpected striking skills from Roller, ala Frankie Edgar x Sean Sherk from UFC 98. Perhaps Roller isn’t totally polished with his fists, reaching from afar and charging straight in, but he caught Tavares in the second with an overhand right that earned the KO finish.

Here’s how my predictions and reality turned out for UFC on Versus 3: Sanchez vs. Kampmann:

265 lbs. – Todd Brown x Igor Pokrajac
Pokrajac via TKO (round one)
Result: Pokrajac via TKO (round one)

185 lbs. – Dongi Yang x Rob Kimmons
Prediction: Kimmons by submission (round two)
Result: Yang via TKO (round two)

135 lbs. – Takeya Mizugaki x Reuben Duran
Mizugaki via unanimous decision
Result: Mizugaki via unanimous decision

155 lbs. – Shane Roller x Thiago Tavares
Roller via split decision
Result: Roller via KO (round two)

185 lbs. – Cyrille Diabate x Steve Cantwell
Diabate via submission (round two)
Result: Diabate via unanimous decision.

155 lbs. – Danny Castillo x Joe Stevenson
Castillo via TKO (round one) or Stevenson via decision
Result: Castillo via unanimous decision.

145 lbs. – Brian Bowles x Damacio Page
Page via unanimous decision
Result: Bowles via submission.

185 lbs. – Alessio Sakara x Chris Weidman
Sakara via TKO (round one)
Result: Weidman via unanimous decision

185 lbs. – CB Dolloway x Mark Munoz
Munoz via TKO or unanimous decision
Result: Munoz via TKO

170 lbs. – Diego Sanchez x Martin Kampmann
Sanchez via TKO (round three)
Result: Sanchez via unanimous decision

Dan 'Hendo' Henderson captured the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight title from Rafael 'Feijao' Cavalcante with a second round KO.

Two nights later, Strikeforce continued its streak of outdoing itself with a night of exciting finishes and developing personalities. The past two events were the opening rounds of the promotion’s World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament followed by a Strikeforce Challengers events that featured Ryan Couture, the return of Carlo Prater, and an exciting main event of Lee Healy x Lyle Beerbohm.  The ratings for Feijao vs. Henderson will indicate how much traction the previous events offered for tonight, as well as how much this event might provide for Strikeforce’s next event (April 9th, headlined by Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley for the welterweight title), but for those who are looking for action and willing to give the Showtime product a chance, they’d do themselves right by catching the replays, starting on March 8th.

Previously, I said that this was a one-man show, with Henderson as the only star in casual fans’ eyes. Going into the event, that’s not an unreasonable assessment, but in retrospect, Strikeforce middleweight Tim Kennedy, women’s welterweight champion Marloes Coenen, and her challenger Liz ‘G-Rilla’ Carmouche gave dramatic in-cage performances and came across on the mic as fighters worth fans remembering and supporting.

In particular, Carmouche dominated Coenen for at least half the match, making the champ’s come-from-behind finish in round four one of Strikeforce’s best ‘Oh Shit’ moments of 2011, if not the promotion’s whole title history. Like Griffin-Bonnar I was for the UFC (not that I’m comparing the two matches directly), Strikeforce needs these moments to stick in casual fans’ minds and they need them to involve fighters other than the ones the public already knows.

Liz Carmouche post-fight press conference comments:

Marloes Coenen post-fight press conference comments:

Likewise, Kennedy had his hands full with Melvin Manhoef, an unforgettable swift-striking Dutch kickboxer whose walkout is as frenetic and exciting as his matches. Kennedy, a U.S. Army Green Beret with multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, is respectable, affable, and admirable, though he’s not stuck in most peoples’ minds as much more than ‘the army guy.’ Having defeated a memorable and accomplished fighter like Manhoef, Kennedy may have turned the corner in fans’ awareness, giving Strikeforce a homegrown star around which they can build.

In his post-fight interview, Kennedy said: “Let’s hear it for the troops, you guys. We’re talking about people overseas that are watching these fights right now. You give me a little bit more time in here; I’ll be back in uniform doing the most important job in the whole world. That’s protecting your freedoms.”

What MMA fans aren’t going to get behind that?

Tim Kennedy post-fight press conference comments:

Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson was promoted in conjunction with The Arnold Sports Festival, an annual fitness and sports expo held in Columbus, OH. The UFC held similar events in 2007-2009, abandoning it in 2010. With Coker & Company taking the unofficial slot, they of course had booth presence at the event. And who should show up to make an appearance other than Arnold himself, MMA’s number one fan.

Uh-huh. Looks like the ex-Governator’s abilities haven’t changed a bit.

Here’s how my predictions and reality turned out for Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson:

170 lbs. – J.P. Felty x John Kuhner
Felty via TKO (round one)
Result: Kuhner via submission (round two)

185 lbs. – Marc Cofer x Mitch Whitesel
Whitesel via TKO (round one)
Result: Whitesel via submission (round one)

185 lbs. – Ian Rammel x Brian Rogers
Rogers via TKO (round one)
Result: Rogers via TKO (round one)

265 lbs. – Jason Riley vs. Jason “Jay” Freeman
Riley via TKO (round one)
Result: Freeman via submission (round one)

155 lbs. – Jorge Gurgel vs. Tyler Combs
Gurgel via submission (round three) or decision
Result: Gurgel via submission (round one)

170 lbs. – Roger Bowling vs. Josh Thornburg
Bowling via unanimous decision
Result: Bowling via unanimous decision

155 lbs. – Billy Evangelista vs. Jorge Masvidal
Evangelista via unanimous decision
Result: Masvidal via unanimous decision

185 lbs. – Tim Kennedy vs. Melvin Manhoef
Kennedy via submission (round one or two)
Result: Kennedy via submission (round one)

135 lbs. Strikeforce Women’s Welterweight Title – Marloes Coenen vs. Liz Carmouche
Coenen via submission (round two)
Result: Coenan via submission (round four)

205 lbs. Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Title – Rafael ‘Feijao’ Cavalcante vs. Dan Henderson
Cavalcante via TKO (round two)
Result: Henderson via TKO (round three)

The Finish

For me, both shows delivered in quality of matches. By all accounts, UFC on Versus 3 offered a competitive main event that had fans and experts debating the finish, and the show itself continued to build new faces for the future. Between the free prelim matches on Facebook and fitting in two swing bouts (untelevised matches that end up airing to fill up the broadcast time), fans benefit because they get early exposure to young fighters who are climbing the ranks, and fighters benefit because they can receive extra sponsorship money due to their matches make it to TV. Moreover, fighters are going to perform even better on the undercard because of the incentive to “earn” their fight onto a telecast.

Showtime would do themselves, Strikeforce, and those same fans and fighters a world of good by airing swing bouts after the main event for those very same reasons. Moreover, those swing bouts would theoretically lead to better establishing those same fighters for their Showtime Challengers series.

All that said, Strikeforce over-delivered. I was afraid that, with anything less than several great battles, Feijao vs. Henderson would get lost in the shuffle between the Grand Prix opening rounds and the next Nick Diaz fight. However, I think the event took great strides in building future stars like Kennedy and Coenan, and even Carmouche. Likewise, as the champion most likely (since 2008) to successfully defend the light heavyweight title, Henderson can give both Strikeforce and the 205 lb. weight class the credibility it needs to be taken seriously.

Dan Henderson post-fight press conference comments:

UFC 127 Results and Recap

Posted in TV Reports, UFC on February 27, 2011 by jaytan716

“Expect impressive performances from Lytle, Sotiropoulos, and Penn.”

None of these men won, and though at least one match was close and compelling, UFC 127 was a show where the deck was reshuffled yet again, leaving Joe Silva, Dana White, and the Fertitta Brothers with some interesting promotional choices to make.

My own rule of thumb is that when you have a lower-profile lineup, such as no title matches, proven pay-per-view stars (BJ Penn aside), or long-brewing beefs (the Rivera-Bisping thing didn’t have any history prior to their match), shows such as UFC 127 reveal future contenders and personalities to build around for bigger shows later down the road. As such, what was already a mixed bag was shaken up even more with interesting results.

U.S.-transplant Brian Ebersole shocked fans with his unconventional yet effective fighting style. Ultimate Fighter season nine winner Ross Pearson decisively handled UFC veteran Spencer Fisher. Dennis Siver thwarted plans for George Sotiropoulos, who was earmarked as a potentially strong lightweight title contender and Zuffa’s Great Australian Hope. And though he didn’t win, Jon Fitch renewed his title contender’s card with his performance against what seemed to be “the serious BJ Penn.”

The two big controversies emerging from UFC 127 are in part the outcomes of the last two matches, but also where the respective stars of those matches go from there. BJ Penn was clearly disappointed in his performance, and though he didn’t make any retirement announcements, he did allude to questioning what the next chapter to his fight career will look like.

Before most BJ Penn matches, the proverbial question is always “which BJ will show up to fight?” Conventionally, it’s either the amazing grappler with hard, fast hands that earned his ‘Prodigy’ nickname, or the unmotivated daydreamer who looks like he’d rather be anywhere than an octagon cage. In this case, it felt like we saw the Prodigy, but that he simply couldn’t seal the deal like he could against guys like Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez. Time eventually catches up with all fighters at some point, and when it catches them off guard (as it seemed with Fedor two weeks ago), their kneejerk reaction is to court retirement.

Shortly after the press conference, Penn told MMAFighting’s Ariel Helwani “everything runs through your head at certain times and your mind changes from time to time. I still don’t know what I’m gonna do.”

In the week leading up to the fight, fans and media really picked up on the heat between Michael Bisping and Jorge Rivera, the latter of whose series of YouTube videos clearly got under the Englishman’s skin. Such that Bisping’s worst side came out with his behavior during the match (grabbing the cage, blatant illegal knee) and afterwards (spitting at Rivera’s corner).

Post-fight trash talking and obscene gestures, which Bisping also partook in tonight, don’t do any truly measurable harm. Neither Josh Koscheck nor Brock Lesnar were fined or suspended for their post-fight behavior. And the referee deducted a point off  Bisping for the illegal knee to Rivera, so it’s not like there wasn’t punishment (given Bisping’s distance from Rivera, line of sight, and knowledge of the rules, disqualification would have been fully justified). But as a veteran of 14 UFC fights, regardless of the videos or his penchant for emotion, Bisping was far out of line. He did apologize in his post-fight interview and again at the press conference later that night. Not that I expect it to happen, but it wouldn’t be improper for UFC brass to invoke further disciplinary action against the Count, because otherwise the bar for acceptable behavior will drop to “as long as you apologize for it afterwards.”

Upon hearing that Rivera’s camp believed the knee to be intentional, and that they believed Bisping should be suspended, he said in reaction “Doesn’t surprise me, really. Just one classless move after another, I suppose.” Indeed, Michael. Indeed.

As for the matches, few of them played out as I expected, which shows what a wonderful crapshoot this sport can be. Despite my prediction, I thought Fukuda’s takedowns were enough that he definitely won the third and likely the second, if not the first as well. He didn’t accomplish much with the takedowns from the first and second, and the stand-up fight was close. According to the Wrestling Observer / Figure Four Online website, all three judges scored the bout 29-28, giving Ring the first and second, which would indicate they saw Ring’s striking overshadowed Fukuda’s takedowns, which isn’t an illogical argument. If Fukuda had advanced position off the takedowns in the first and second rounds, he likely would have taken at least one round and tipped the scales for his own 29-28 win.

After years of North American MMA exile, Brian Ebersole clearly embraced and made the most out of his last-minute opportunity to fight in the UFC, landing a fantastic knee in the second that seemed to take Chris Lytle out of the rest of the match. And speaking of knees, though Bisping was close to winning the striking game in his match, that knee to Rivera’s head certainly helped set the stage for round two.

Here’s how my predictions and reality turned out for UFC 127:

145 lbs. – Jason Reinhardt vs. Tiequan Zhang
Zhang via submission (round one)
Result: Zhang via submission (round one)

265 lbs. – Anthony Perosh vs. Tom Blackledge
Perosh via TKO / KO (round one)
Result: Perosh via submission (round one)

155 lbs. – Curt Warburton vs. Maciej Jewtuszko
Jewtuszko via TKO (round two)
Result: Warburton via unanimous decision

265 lbs. – Mark Hunt vs. Chris Tuchscherer
Tuchscherer by submission (round one)
Result: Hunt via TKO (round two)

185 lbs. – Nick Ring vs. Riki Fukuda
Ring via submission (round two or three) or decision.
Result: Ring via unanimous decision

205 lbs. – Alexander Gustafsson x James Te-Huna
Gustafsson via submission (round two) or decision.
Result: Gustafsson via submission (round one)

155 lbs. – Spencer Fisher vs. Ross Pearson
Prediction: Fisher by decision
Result: Pearson via unanimous decision

185 lbs. – Chris Camozzi vs. Kyle Noke
Prediction: Noke via submission (round three)
Result: Noke via submission (round one)

170 lbs. – Brian Ebersole vs. Chris Lytle
Lytle by submission (round one)
Result: Ebersole via unanimous decision

155 lbs. – George Sotiropoulos vs. Dennis Siver
Sotiropoulos by submission (round two)
Result: Siver via unanimous decision

185 lbs. – Michael Bisping vs. Jorge Rivera
Rivera by (round three) TKO or Bisping by decision
Result: Bisping via TKO (round two)

170 lbs. – BJ Penn vs. Jon Fitch
Penn by submission (round two) or unanimous decision
Result: Majority Draw (two judges draw, one judge 29-28 Fitch

The Finish

As a matchmaker myself, I should empathize when a promoter’s marketing darlings lose and their long-term plans go awry. In this case, an otherwise lackluster card was made interesting by some intriguing yet indecisive finishes. I don’t feel this show revealed much for the future, beyond a potentially entertaining mid-card welterweight in Brian Ebersole, Michael Bisping as a certified heel, and Fitch as the top non-finishing contender. But thankfully, we’ve only got several days before Diego Sanchez and Martin Kampmann can wash away the stop-gap feel of UFC 127.

Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva Recap & Results

Posted in Strikeforce, TV Reports on February 13, 2011 by jaytan716

Jay Tan’s

In his book Adventures in the Screen Trade, William Goldman said “nobody knows anything,” and while he was talking about Hollywood, after the big upset in tonight’s main event, the same rule of thumb can be applied to MMA.

Especially on a night when all the televised matches except the main event ended in the first round, when the longest match would involve the ‘Last Emperor’ Fedor Emelianenko, and when that match would prove to be Emelianenko’s second loss in a row.

“Strikeforce / M-1 Global Present: Fedor vs. Silva” marked the beginning of the Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament. This year-long classic of top heavyweights outside of the UFC is formatted similarly to the famous grand prix tournaments of Japan’s PRIDE Fighting Championships in the early 2000’s, and because of that, is being lauded by the MMA community.

Complemented with an all-heavyweight televised undercard, the first two matches in the opening quarterfinal rounds main evented the show:  Sergei Kharitonov finished (perhaps permanently in the sport) Andrei ‘The Pitbull’ Arlovski via first-round KO and Emelianenko, in his first match since being submitted by Fabricio Werdum mid-last year, succumbed to former EliteXC heavyweight champion Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva via TKO due to a doctor’s stoppage.

Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament Results (after night one)

Hindsight is 20/20, but in retrospect, perhaps we should have predicted the quick finishes, as well as the challenge that Bigfoot Silva would present. After all, of the televised match winners tonight, only Silva and Chad Griggs had gone to the second round since 2008. Griggs’ only match to go past five minutes was his TKO win last year against Bobby Lashley, but beyond that he, Kharitonov, Del Rosario, and Overeem share over 30 consecutive first-round finishes (wins and losses) between them.

And though Emelianenko lost tonight, his only other second-round match was his TKO win against Brett Rogers in 2009. As such, clearly the odds of any of these men having a long night were slim to none.

Likewise, on New Year’s Eve in 2007, Emelianenko fought ‘Techno Goliath’ Hong Man Choi, a 7’2”, 350 lb. Korean boxer and ssireum (Korean folkstyle) wrestler who, like Silva, lives with acromegaly. Emelianenko made short work of Choi that night, baiting a ground fight and working from bottom position for an armbar. Of course, Choi was nowhere near the skill level of Silva, who is a black belt in judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and karate. Moreover, Emelianenko fought a much different fight against Silva, choosing to stand and bang, When Emelianenko was stuck on bottom, he had no answers for Silva’s challenges, proving that at a certain point, skill AND size will beat skill alone.

And we probably should have known that all along. After all, to paraphrase, any given man can beat any other man on any given day. Especially in MMA.

The other big surprise of the night was the announcement of former Strikeforce women’s middleweight champion Gina Carano returning to action in 2011. Carano’s camp, Xtreme Couture, announced (via Twitter) over a week ago that the top female MMA star of 2007 and 2009 had returned to the gym for some light training. Although the reluctant superstar had little more to offer tonight than a pretty smile and a few gushes of embarrassment, that should be enough anticipation for the internet and MMA fans to buzz about until she gets back into fight shape and a match can be signed.

Here’s how my predictions and reality turned out for “Strikeforce / M-1 Global Present: Fedor vs. Silva”:

155 lbs. – John Cholish x Marc Stevens
Cholish via submission (round three)
Result: Cholish via submission (round two)

170 lbs. – John Salgado x Igor Gracie
Gracie via submission (round one)
Result: Gracie via submission (round two)

265 lbs. – Chad Griggs x Gian Villante:
Prediction: Villante via TKO (round one)
Result: Griggs via TKO (round one)

265 lbs. – Valantijn Overeem vs. Ray Sefo:
Prediction: Overeem via TKO (round one)
Result: Overeem via submission (round one)

265 lbs. – Shane Del Rosario x Lavar Johnson:
Prediction: Del Rosario via TKO or submission (round two)
Result: Del Rosario via submission (round one)

265 lbs. – Andrei Arlovski x Sergei Kharitonov
Prediction: Kharitonov via unanimous decision
Result: Kharitonov via KO (round one)

265 lbs. – Fedor Emelianenko x Antonio Silva:
Result: Silva via TKO / doctor’s stoppage (round two)

The Finish

I would think that one of Strikeforce’s bigger goals tonight was to provide at least one exciting, irresistible answer to the casual MMA fan’s question “why should I watch or care about this tournament?”

Within the cage, Coker & Co. gave several answers: hard-hitting heavyweight action with blink-of-an-eye finishes in a setting where, clearly, anything can happen. Josh Barnett made me believe he was serious about getting into a dogfight, and Alistair Overeem actually gave me a reason to care a bit more about his fight (against whom I’m still afraid casual fans are going to refer to as ‘the other guy’). This was Strikeforce’s first venture into the New Jersey market, and to their credit, the audience came across on TV as one of their hotter non-San Jose crowds in a long time.

On the other hand, promoting can be a delicate balance, and for all the good they gave us tonight, Strikeforce’s next big event, set for March 5th in Columbus, OH, came up on the short end. This is especially sad when tonight’s show was booked for 150 to 180 minutes and only ran 127 minutes (including end credits). There was still plenty of time to cut after the Emelianenko fight to one of the earlier untelevised matches, or even promo pieces on Henderson, Feijao, Marloes Coenen, or Miesha Tate (who are all scheduled for March 5th). To Zuffa’s credit, the UFC is not afraid to air lesser-known undercard matches to complete a three-hour PPV window, and I’ve even see them air an undercard Spike TV match as filler.

If I didn’t already have Dan Henderson x Rafael ‘Feijao’ on my calendar, I’m not sure that I would care to be aware of it at all. And as frustrating as I found Carano’s airheaded interview (peace to Heidi Androl’s best intentions), her return to the cage and the April tournament matches are going to be on my radar a lot more than Showtime’s next big MMA event (which, by the way, is scheduled for two title fights, for those keeping score).

With no official Showtime videos for March 5th yet, at least Karen Bryant has something to offer:

UFC 126 Recap & Results

Posted in Live Event Reports, TV Reports on February 6, 2011 by jaytan716

It wasn’t until after UFC 126 that I noticed the parallels between this and another recent memorable show: WEC 53, that promotion’s curtain call show just two months ago.

Both shows had featured some imaginative babyface match-ups (Donald Cerrone x Chris Horodecki, Forrest Griffin x Rich Franklin), a string of quick finishes in the undercard (four first-round finishes at WEC 53, three at UFC 126), a few anticipated main card matches that fell short of crowd expectations (Dominic Cruz x Scott Jorgensen, Antonio Banuelos x Miguel Angel Torres, even Griffin-Franklin), and of course an iconic kick in each main event (Anthony Pettis’ ‘Showtime Kick’ to Anderson Silva’s Steven Segal front kick) that is sure to be the subject of water cooler talk for at least the next week.

But in a sport like MMA, that’s just coincidence. Instead, the big themes were the continued debut of WEC veterans on the UFC stage (Cerrone, Chad Mendes, Demetrious Johnson), the ‘What If?’ dream match of Griffin-Franklin, Vitor Belfort as the latest challenge to the seemingly unbeatable Anderson Silva, and probably the most resonant outcome – rising star Jon Jones’ unexpected shot at historic greatness.

One of the biggest recurring themes that struck me most (no pun intended) were the size difference in several matches. Kyle Kingsbury’s reach and power stunned Ricardo Romero, giving Kingsbury the opening to finish. Likewise, the big factor in the Banuelos-Torres match seemed to be Banuelos’ inability to get Torres’ timing or penetrate his range to connect, either inside the pocket or from around him. Fans seemed to crap on this match more than any other, though I found Torres’ strategy and footwork entertaining and effective. Cerrone-Kelly and Jones-Bader played out much like many thought it would, but when the bell rang for these respective matches, the disparity was beyond noticeable.

Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson and Carlos Eduardo Rocha continued to make impressions with fans, Johnson for his speed and effortless takedowns on Kid Yamamoto, a nationally-celebrated Japanese wrestler, and Rocha for his constant pressure, particularly in the first round, on Jake Ellenberger, a seasoned wrestler and fighter. Japanese fighters always seem to have a difficult time adjusting to the octagon (not that that’s the explanation, but it’s a trend), and going against a protégé of Matt Hume, who’s been involved in the Japanese MMA scene since the mid-90’s, is almost always going to make a bad day worse. As for Rocha, if anyone took his credentials of having beaten .500-level European fighters lightly, they probably should reconsider that perspective.

In Jon Jones’ case, most had already pegged him as a superstar of tomorrow, and his masterful handling of Ryan Bader, whose previous undefeated streak and wrestling credentials are not to be taken lightly, should have squashed any doubt that there was a title shot in his future. But opportunity shows up on its own time, and for Jones, it literally had a front row ticket, because when announcer Joe Rogan said in the post-fight interview that #1 light heavyweight contender (and Jones’ teammate) Rashad Evans had withdrawn from his March 19th title shot due to injury, UFC champ Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua stepped into the cage and welcomed Jones as his replacement. Challenges in post-fight interviews are nothing new to MMA, but to spring a fighter’s next date like this, especially a title fight, gave the fans something more to discuss than just a spectacular finish.

Speaking of spectacular finishes, to say that Anderson Silva did it again would be an understatement. Almost demonstrating a kicking version of his own ‘throwaway jab’ KO of Forrest Griffin from 18 months ago, Silva stunned the world again with a front kick to Vitor Belfort’s chin that had Belfort knocked out on his feet. It was a few more seconds and two more punches before referee Mario Yamasaki stopped the match, but by that point, the damage was done with the foot to the face.

Like with the Griffin jab, nobody would have thought anything of a front kick, which Silva sold as aiming for the body. But as he demonstrated once again, Silva’s balance, speed, power, and targeting control clearly are such that anybody really needs to be careful if the Spider so much as flings a booger at them.

Here’s how my predictions and reality turned out for UFC 126:

170 lbs. – Mike Pierce vs. Kenny Robertson
Prediction: Robertson via submission (round two or three)
Result: Pierce via TKO (round two)

205 lbs. – Ricardo Romero vs. Kyle Kingsbury
Prediction: Romero via submission (round three)
Result: Kingsbury via TKO (round one)

155 lbs. – Gabe Ruediger vs. Paul Taylor
Prediction: Taylor via TKO (round one)
Result: Taylor via KO (round two)

135 lbs. – Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto vs. Demetrious Johnson
Prediction: Johnson by unanimous decision
Result: Johnson by unanimous decision

145 lbs. – Chad Mendes vs. Michihiro Omigawa
Prediction: Mendes via TKO (round one), though I did say that conventionally, this fight would go to decision
Result: Mendes by unanimous decision.

155 lbs. – Paul Kelly vs. Donald Cerrone
Prediction: Cerrone via submission (round three)
Result: Cerrone via submission (round two)

135 lbs. – Antonio Banuelos vs. Miguel Angel Torres
Prediction: Torres via submission (round two)
Result: Torres via unanimous decision

170 lbs. – Carlos Eduardo Rocha vs. Jake Ellenberger
Prediction: Ellenberger by TKO (round one)
Result: Ellenberger by split decision

205 lbs. – Ryan Bader vs. Jon Jones
Prediction: Jones by unanimous decision
Result: Jones by submission (round two)

205 lbs. – Forrest Griffin vs. Rich Franklin
Prediction: Franklin by TKO (round two or three) or Griffin via split decision
Result: Griffin by unanimous decision

185 lbs. (UFC Middleweight Title) – Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort:
Prediction: Silva by TKO (round three)
Result: Silva by TKO (round one)

The Finish

I’ve already heard feedback from casual fans that this show fell flat, but between the performances of Silva, Jones, Griffin’s ground-and-pound, and the competitiveness of Rocha-Ellenberger, I thought this show delivered. Silva’s kick was an ‘I was there’ moment, as was Rogan’s news to Jones that he was being offered a title shot. To me, that’s part of what makes a live event special. Granted, the crowd did seem surprisingly unresponsive for a lot of the post-fight interviews, and the Torres-Banuelos and Griffin-Franklin matches weren’t the Pier Six brawls that fans hoped for, but neither fight was lackluster enough to blemish an otherwise fun and memorable show past the point of no return.

Moreover, fans only have six weeks, not six months, for one of tonight’s angle to continue. Mark your calendars for March 19th, because if Jones x Rua does indeed come to fruition, as it looks like it will, the challenger’s chase will still be fresh in people’s minds, and MMA fans always love a good storyli – er, title chase.

This entry originally posted at

M-1 Challenge 2009: Team Korea vs. Team Imperial

Posted in M-1 Challenge, TV Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2009 by jaytan716

Returning for a second season in 2009, M-1 Global and Affliction Entertainment present M-1 Challenge 2009.  Dubbed the “World Cup of Mixed Martial Arts,” the M-1 Challenge is a year-long round-robin tournament which pits national teams of MMA fighters in a series of dual meets which take place in countries across the world.  This year, the M-1 roster has grown from 10 to 16 teams, with additional teams hailing from the US, Turkey, Brazil, Benelux, and Bulgaria.

Rules of the M-1 Challenge are primarily PRIDE-based, with three judges scoring two five-minute rounds (with the possibility of a third round in the event of a draw).  Elbows to the head or the throat of an opponent are illegal, as is kicking or kneeing the head of a grounded opponent.  Team standings are based on team victories, followed by cumulative individual match victories.

This meet originally took place on February 21st of this year, at the Emerald Queen Hotel & Casino in Tacoma, WA.  Handling the announcing duties are Sean Wheelock and Jimmy Smith.

Lightweight (154 lbs. / 70.3 kg.) – Do-hyung Kim (Team Korea) vs. Mikhail Malyutin (Team Imperial)

Kim fought at welterweight for Team Korea last year, defeating Farouk Lakebir of France and Erik Oganov of Russia Red Devil.  Malyutin went 3-1 in last year’s M-1 Challenge, including beating Cha Jin Wook when Russia Red Devil met Korea.  Both men would seem to have teammate revenge on their mind in this match.

Round One:  Both men are light on their feet, but hesitant to engage.  They clash with a double head butt that each painfully acknowledges.  Kim has his corner look at it.  Upon the restart, Malyutin gets the single leg takedown, but Kim grabs a tight rubber guard.  Referee Marco Broersen repositions them, and orders a standing restart shortly thereafter.  This is one of those moments when hardcore jiu-jitsu experts complain that other MMA fans don’t understand the ground game.  They clash with combinations.  Both men are looking for an opening, but neither seems to want to set things up or engage.  Malyutin takes it to the ground, stuck in Kim’s half guard.  Kim brings it back to the feet in the corner before the end of the round.

Round Two:  Before the round begins, Malyutin stands in the middle, trying to play mind games.  After some cautious circling, Malyutin shoots for the takedown.  Kim turns and almost clotheslines himself on the second rope like he’s setting himself up for the 619, but he’s able to twist and get top position.  Kim tries to initiate a ground-and-pound attack, but Malyutin focuses on the left leg, keeping him busy as the Korean looks for a shot from above.  He stuns Malyutin with a left, but Malyutin spins to his back and escapes to his feet in the corner.  Malyutin gets taken down, but pushes Kim off.  Kim jumps on him with an overhand right, gets Malyutin’s back, and almost rolls out of the ring.  They restart in the middle, but Malyutin can’t shake Kim off.  Kim throws ground and pound / rear naked choke to the end.  After the match and Malyutin applauds Kim.

Judges give the round to Do Hyung Kim via unanimous decision.  Team Korea chalks up their first win against Team Imperial.

Welterweight (167 lbs. / 75.7 kg.) – Myung-ho Bae (Team Korea) vs. Erik Oganov (Team Imperial)

Bae makes his M-1 Challenge debut tonight, having fought for the Japanese MARS promotion since 2006.  Oganov’s M-1 days go back to 2005.  Last year, he was submitted by Do Hyung Kim, who fights this year at lightweight.

Round Two:  Bae attempts a flying knee, but Oganov catches him and they fall back to the ropes.  Oganov instinctually grabs the ropes, but you can see in his face he doesn’t mean to.  Referee DeRobbio restarts them in the middle. Bae scores another trip takedown and peppers Oganov with hammerfists.  Bae gets a tight rear naked choke and taps Oganov out at 2:12 of the second round.

Team Korea is up 2-0, one win away from taking this team challenge and moral revenge for their loss last year.

Middleweight (185 lbs. / 83.9 kg.) – Hyung-yu Lim (Team Korea) vs. Dmitriy Samoylov (Team Imperial)

Lim is a boxer by training who won both of his M-1 matches last year, knocking out Lucio Linhares (Finland) and submitting Brandon Magana (USA).  Samoylov, a veteran of M-1, had a three-fight win streak before losing by decision to Jason Jones (Holland) in the M-1 Challenge finals last year.

Round One: Lim has the height and reach advantage here, and capitalizes on it with a left jab, but Samoylov responds with combos, tagging Lim in the face.  Lim slips and Samoylov is all over him.  Just as Lim is about to fall out of the ring, referee Anthony Hamlet halts the action and restarts them in the middle.  Lim tightens his guard and neutralizes Samoylov’s ground and pound offense.  After a restart to standing, Lim comes down with overhand rights, while Samoylov jabs away and slips in the occasional left low kick.  Samoylov is opened up over the left eye on the outside.  Both men have bad intentions behind their punches and are giving the fans bang for their buck.

Round Two:  Lim pushes Samoylov, who responds with a left-right combination.  Samoylov has found his pace, evading Lim’s shots and using his left low kick to set up for a right-left hook combination.  Samoylov throws a high kick just to keep Lim on his toes.  Lim’s left leg is taking a lot of damage.  Lim finally goes for the takedown, but Samoylov falls on him and is a house of fire, throwing combinations to the body.  Lim tries to pull closed guard, but Samoylov passes.  Lim escapes, taking it back to the feet.  Lim with a wild left body shot.  It looks like he’s used the last trick in his bag, because Samoylov is tapping him at will.

Judges give Dimitriy Samoylov the win via unanimous decision. Team Imperial keeps the competition alive with a victory to make it 2-1 Team Korea.

Light Heavyweight (205 lbs. / 93 kg.) – Jae-young Kim (Team Korea) vs. Mikhail Zayats (Team Imperial)

Zayats was one of the only M-1 Challenge fighters to go undefeated last year.  His only loss was to Daniel Tabera (Spain) in the Fedor Emelianenko Cup, which was not part of the regular M-1 Challenge season.  Kim is a Kyokushin karate expert nicknamed the “Windy Fighter,” due to his speed.  This graduate of Korea’s Spirit MC promotion is making his M-1 Challenge debut.

Round One:  Kim engages, but Zayats pushes him back with a combination, then gets him to the ground, eventually taking full mount.  But Kim bucks out and escapes, which the fans love  Zayats catches a high kick and trips Kim to the ground again.  Zayats legs are long enough that he can stay in half guard and lay perpendicular chest-to-chest.   He spins around for an armbar and gets in position, but almost falls out of the ring.  Kim escapes.  Zayats almost gets another from the bottom, but Kim spins out again.  Referee Hamlet finally restarts them in the corner with Zayats on the ground.  Zayats won’t give up on the arm, rolling to top position over Kim and cinching in a kimura.  But Kim’s low center of gravity is helping him stand up and step out.  Zayats tags Kim with a jab to the face, but he doesn’t flinch.  Zayats gets side position again, loosening Kim up with ground and pound.  He spins around for an armbar, but Kim follows with him, and stands up.  But Zayats stays with it and rolls to his stomach.  Kim continues to fight it.  Fans are on their feet and loving this match.  Kim hangs on to the end of the round.

Round Two:  Both these men are winded.  Kim with a left mid-kick, then a right head kick that drops Zayats face forward.  Zayats gets to his feet, but Kim continues with combinations to the face.  Kim lands another brutal-sounding left body kick and follows Zayats to the ground, throwing a ground and pound assault that the fans are just eating up.  Kim looks to the referee to stop it.  He transitions to side mount and goes for a kimura, then lays in harsh punches to the stomach and face.  Zayats escapes, baiting Kim into an open guard.  Zayats is holding on for dear life.  Kim is amped.  Referee Hamlet restarts them in the ring.  Zayats has nothing in him, but Kim is not pulling the trigger.  Zayats wings a spinning backfist, then an exhausted takedown attempt, but Kim sprawls with no problem.  Referee Hamlet calls Zayats for pulling on the shorts.  Kim’s logo patch is torn.  Zayats tries another spinning back fist, putting his hands on his hips as the universal sign of “I’m tired.”  Kim nails a left head kick that drops Zayats backwards.  Kim doesn’t even bother to follow Zayats to the ground, knowing he’s got the KO win at 4:02 of the second round.  Finally, betraying his own gas tank, Kim drops to his knees in exhaustion.

Team Korea takes the team challenge, 3-1, and gains revenge from last year.

Heavyweight (265 lbs. / 120.2 kg.) – Sang-soo Lee (Team Korea) vs. Oleksiy Oliynyk (Team Imperial)

Lee is a hard-hitting fighter with impressive wins over Roman Zenzov (Russia Red Devil) and Malick N’diaye (France).  Oliynyk is riding an eight-fight win streak since 2008, including winning two tournaments for Russia’s ProFC.  In that month alone, he fought five times, with at least three matches not going past the first round.

Round One:  Oliynyk starts with combinations, then shoots a takedown that Lee catches.  Lee maintains his balance as Oliynyk goes to his back and clinches.  Suddently, Oliynyk springs to Lee’s back and gets the hooks in, trying to open Lee up with punches from behind.  Lee blocks a rear naked choke with his chin.  Frankly, he doesn’t have much off a neck anyway.  Lee rolls to face Oliynyk, stands up, and takes his back.  Oliynyk sits to his back in Lee’s corner. Lee in full mount and fires head and body shots from the left.  Round ends.

Oliynyk gets the tap out with a 4:27 of the second round with a front / Ezekiel choke.

Team Imperial gets the last laugh of the night, but Team Korea laughs all the way home.

Best Match**: Kim vs. Zayats.  Lots of back and forth action, with several very close submission attempts and a highlight reel head kick that came out of nowhere.

Worst Match**: Lee vs. Oliynyk.  Based on the number of stand-up restarts, you can probably deduce the ground action here.  The Ezekiel choke is Oliynyk’s bread and butter, so the whole match seemed to be a set-up for it.

**(based on footage aired)

M-1 Challenge: Team Holland vs. Team Russia Red Devil

Posted in M-1 Challenge, TV Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2009 by jaytan716

Over eight long months, M-1 Global has hosted ten MMA events in nine different countries.  Fighters from all over the world have competed and represented their homelands in what has been nicknamed the “World Cup of MMA.”  And in that time, two teams have rose to the occasion and taken the top spot in their respective divisions.  Finally, Team Holland and Team Russia Red Devil battle head-to-head for the M-1 Challenge championship.

This event originally took place on January 11th at Studio 47 in Amsterdam, Holland.   As always, announcers Sean Wheelock and Fight Quest’s Jimmy Smith are on-hand to call the matches.

Also worthy of note is that the matches tonight consist of three five-minute rounds, as opposed to the “two fives” of the regular season.

Lightweight Division:   Bogdan Christea (Team Holland) vs. Mikhail Malutin (Team Russia Red Devil)

Both Malutin and Christea are 3-1 in this year’s M-1 Challenge.  Malutin started the year out with a frustrating decision loss Bendy Casimir (Team France), but went on to win the rest of his M-1 Challenge matches.  Christea won twice by choke and once by TKO, but he lost a hard-fought battle to Daisuke Nakamura (Team Japan) via decision.

Round Two (joined in progress):  Color commentator Jimmy Smith recaps that Malutin likely won round one 10-9 for control and heavier hands.  Malutin shoots for the single-leg, but Christea jumps guard and pulls him to the ground.  They’re both busy, but referee Daisuke Noguchi stands them up.  Christea stuffs a takedown and almost gets the back, but Malutin regains top position.  Christea is making Malutin work hard for little effect, but they’re stood up again.  Christea drops Malutin with a left hook just seconds before round’s end.

Round Three:  Christea is unable to trip Malutin over from a waist clinch, but he gets the Russian to the ground and takes top position regardless.  He bulls Malutin into the corner and eventually gets a rear naked choke but Malutin spins around and takes the top. Referee Noguchi repositions them in the middle.  Lots of rolling and scrapping for position.  Christea stuffs another takedown and works for a guillotine.  Another stand-up. . . and another stuffed takedown and guillotine.  Christea is going for chokes and kimuras from the bottom.  They fight to their feet and Christea scores a takedown just before the end of the match.

Judges give the match to Mikhail Malutin by majority decision.  Very close, though.

Team Russia Red Devil is up, 1-0.

Welterweight Division:  Romano de los Reyes (Team Holland) vs. Erik Oganov (Team Russia Red Devil)

De los Reyes and Oganov also have even records between them, both going 2-2 in M-1 Challenge action.

Round Three (joined in progress):  Jimmy Smith’s recap indicates Oganov has won both rounds.  He’s continues the dominance with a takedown off a penetrating combination.  Reposition in the corner.  Referee Noguchi stands both fighters up and issues mutual stalling warnings.  Another reposition to the center.  Oganov is dominating with ground-and-pound from side mount until the bell.

Judges award Erik Oganov the match by majority decision.  It really should have been unanimous.

Team Russia Red Devil pulls ahead, 2-0.  Championship gold is one match ahead.

Middleweight Division:   Jason Jones (Team Holland) vs. Dmitry Samoilov (Team Russia Red Devil)

Jason Jones steps foot in the ring with a 2-2 record in this year’s M-1 Challenge, including one of the fastest TKO wins of the season, a six-second TKO over Daniel Weichel of the World Team / Team Germany.  Samoilov is 3-1 in the M-1 Challenge, going on a three-match win streak after getting caught by a Karl Amoussou head kick in his first match of the season.

Round Three (joined in progress):  Earlier, Samoilov got a yellow card warning for an illegal headbut.  Jones lands some sharp combinations and knees.  Samoilov returns the favor.  Jones with a textbook takedown from afar.  Reposition in the center.  Eventually, they’re stood up.  Jones forces a takedown and gets side mount, punishing the Russian with knees.  He continues the assault with hammerfists to the end of the match.

Jason Jones gets the decision victory, keeping Team Holland in the game, 1-2.

Light Heavyweight Division:  David Haagsma (Team Holland) vs. Mikhail Zayats (Team Russia Red Devil)

It’s good to be David Haagsma, who makes his M-1 Challenge debut tonight in the finals, filling in for Kimil Uygun on an eight hour notice.  Haagsma is a jiu-jitsu blue belt under Remco Pardoel.  Meanwhile, Mikhail Zayats comes in tonight at 4-0, the only Red Devil to have that honor.  In fact, his only loss this year was to Daniel Tabera (Team Spain) in non-M-1 Challenge action.

Round One:  Haagsma has a significant height advantage.  Zayats hands look sharp as he pushes in with combinations.  He stuns Haagsma with a spinning backfist, but Haagsma slows the action down with a clinch.  Zayats gets the takedown with some effort.  He rains down rights from half-guard and spins around to get an armbar and the tapout at 3:21 In the first round.

Team Russia Red Devil secures their third victory of the night and, as such, become the 2008 M-1 Challenge Champions.

Heavyweight Division:  Jessie Gibbs (Team Holland) vs. Alexey Oleinik (Team Russia Red Devil)

Jessie Gibbs another of the small club of 4-0 undefeated M-1 Challenge fighters.  He faces Alexey Oleinik, a fill-in for Kiril “Baby Fedor” Sidelnikov.  To his credit, however, Oleinik is on a seven-fight win streak, with five of those matches coming over two days in October of last year.  Oleinik is a tournament machine, having fought multiple times in one-night tournaments at least nine times in his career, which dates back to 1997.

Round Two (joined in progress):  Despite an Oleinik-branded takedown, Jessie Gibbs was on top for most of the match and likely won the first round 10-9.  Oleinik scores a takedown after catching a Gibbs-sponsored body kick.  Gibbs scraps to his feet.  Both men throw tired, rather unimpressive strikes.  Gibbs towers over Oleinik and throws some knees, opening up Oleinik’s right eye.  But Gibbs gives up his back standing and Oleinik pulls him to the ground with hooks in.  Oleinik transitions to top position and slaps on an Ezekiel choke for the tapout at 3:42 in the second round.

Team Russia Red Devil walk away adding insult to injury to a second place Team Holland.

Best Match**: Mikhail Malutin vs. Bogdan Christea.  Christea was extremely competitive in this match, and stole the third round, but that apparently wasn’t enough for the judges.  I thought Christea won.

Worst Match**: Erik Oganov vs. Romano de los Reyes.  By the third round, Oganov was walking away with this match.

**(based on footage aired)

The 2009 M-1 Challenge season kicks off on Saturday, February 21st, at the Emerald Queen Casino in Seattle / Tacoma, WA.  Team Challenges include Team USA 1 vs. Brazil, Team France vs. Team South Korea, and Team Finland vs. Team Benelux.  Other new faces this year will include teams from China, England, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Australia / New Zealand.

M-1 Challenge: Year-End Recap / Countdown to the M-1 Challenge Team Championship

Posted in M-1 Challenge, TV Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2009 by jaytan716

Team Russia Red Devil and Team Holland claimed the top spot in their respective groups in this year’s M-1 Challenge, and with their championship finals showdown scheduled to be televised soon, this week, we take a look back at some of the standout moments of 2008’s M-1 Challenge.

Match 1:  Heavyweight – Kiril Sidelnikov (Team Russia Red Devil) vs. Martin Szoltysik (Team France)

This match aired before these reviews started being published, but if memory serves correct, this was from the first episode of M-1 Challenge.  Szoltysik outweighs Sidelnikov by 35 pounds, and in many ways resembles James Thompson.  At the time, Szoltysik and Sidelnikov, whom many call “Baby Fedor,” were relative novices to the MMA game.

Round One:  Szoltysik seems to favor Thompson’s attack style, running straight towards Sidelnikov from the bell.  But the big Russian jumps out of his range to slow the pace down.  Szoltysik swings giant looping overhand rights, but Sidelnikov doesn’t seem fazed.  If you didn’t know Sidelnikov’s camp, you’d think that he’s in over his head.  Szoltysik chases after him, but Sidelnikov plays stick-and-move until firing an overhand right that drops Szoltysik at 2:25 of round one.  Kiril “Baby Fedor” Sidelnikov walks away with the KO win.

Match 2: Middleweight – Gegard Mousasi (Team Holland) vs. Steve Mensing (Team Germany / World Team)

Two thousand eight was Gegard Mousasi’s year, as he went 6-0, fighting on three different continents and surprising many by knocking out Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza to win the Dream Middleweight Grand Prix championship.  For Mensing, this was his first match since a June 2007 win in the Czech Republic.

Round One:  Mensing initiates the exchange with punches, but Mousasi sets the pace with a series of kicks, landing several hard low shots to Mensing’s outside leg.  Mousasi takes Mensing down in his own corner, but they’re quickly repositioned in the middle.  Mensing tries to shrimp away and escape, but Mousasi gets the full mount and showers lefts and rights down until referee Marco Broersen stops the match at 2:44 of the first round.

Match 3: Lightweight – Daisuke Nakamura (Team Japan) vs. Bogdan Christea (Team Holland)

This was a highly anticipated bout between two fighters who are undefeated in M-1 Challenge action.

Round Two (joined in progress):  Nakamura is considered a master of the flying armbar, and as such, he attempts the move early in the round.  Christea counters with a heel hook and the two jockey for leglock position.  They go back-and-forth for ground control and top position.  Christea gets Nakamura’s back, but then gets caught in an armbar.  At one point, when the referee calls for a stop in the action, Nakamura walks away, while Christea continues with the attack.  But Nakmura counters with yet another flying armbar, triangle choke, and armbar.  The two scrap hard and fast to the end of the round.

This proved to be a tremendous match.  Judges scored in favor of Nakamura, who successfully kept the submission pressure on Christea.

Match 4:  Light Heavyweight – Mikhail Zayats (Team Russia Red Devil) vs. John Cornett (Team USA)

Zayats vs. Cornett was the best match of the meet.  They delivered a barnburner of nonstop action that was furious enough to spill out of the ring several times.

Round One:  Cornett wastes no time in throwing heavy bombs, but Zayats scores a single-leg takedown.  Zayats works some ground-and-pound as Cornett tries to neutralize it with a tight guard.  Finally, the ref restarts them standing.  Zayats attacks with wild haymakers, but the referee stops them and gives Zayats a verbal warning, perhaps for knees to the groin.  By now, he’s intent on getting the overhand right KO.  Cornett is cautious about engaging.

Round Two:  Right from jump street, these two are swinging for the fences.  Zayats drops Cornett and almost finishes him, but the American escapes to his feet.  Zayats takes Cornett down, falling out of the ring.  Upon getting up, Cornett looks to the referee and verbally submits 44 seconds into the second round.  Announcer Sean Wheelock reports that Cornett broke his right hand and has to concede the match.

Match 5:  Heavyweight – Jesse Gibbs (Team Holland) vs. Ahkmed Sultanov (Team Russia Legion)

Gibbs vs. Sultanov was the deciding match in a 2-2 tie between Holland and Russia Legion to claim the Group B championship.  Gibbs was 3-0 going into this match, while Sultanov was 2-1.  Gibbs was also 30 pounds heavier than the Russian heavyweight.

Round One:  Gibbs looks like a smaller, wider Antonio Silva without the acromegaly.  Sultanov opens with a front kick, which Gibbs answers with a low, then high, kick.  They tie up and go to the ground, with Gibbs stepping over to take top position.  Sultanov turtles up under Gibbs’ heavy rights before Gibbs rolls through and gets an arm triangle tapout at 1:12 of the first round.

Match 6: Lightweight – Niko Puhakka (Team Finland) vs. Mikhail Malutin (Team Red Devil)

This was a battle between two of the hotter lightweights in M-1 Challenge.

Round Two (joined in progress):  Malutin charges in, but Puhakka gets the takedown.  Malutin reverses and gets the mount, but they fall into the ropes.  Restart in the center of the ring.  Puhakka turns away from Malutin, who seizes the opportunity, takes the back, and stays on.  Puhakka rolls over several times, but Malutin finally wears him down and sinks in the RNC at 3:32 in the second round.

From there, we go to a series of “Best Knockout” clips, which include clobbering finishes by Hyun-gyu Lim and Mu-jin Na (Team Korea), Janne Tulirinta (Team Finland), Romano de los Reyes (Team Spain), Jason Jones (Team Holland), and Karl “Psycho” Amoussou  (Team France).

Superfight:  Gilbert Yvel vs. Alexander Timonov

Yvel has a cumulative record of almost 55 fights, and judging from his body ink, possibly as many hours in the tattoo studio.  Timonov has five matches and no tattoos.  ‘Nuff said.

Round One:  Timonov is active and unafraid to engage, but drops to the floor from a right hook.  He’s quickly back on his feet, but it’s not long after before Yvel drops him again with another right.  The referee stops the match at 0:22 of the first round

Superfight:  Aleksander Emelianenko vs. Sang-soo Lee

Lee (16-3) and Emelianenko (13-3) are a bit closer in experience.  Emelianenko outweighs Lee by 20 pounds, but Lee has finished larger men.

Round One:  Lee does what he can to create an opening in Emelianenko’s armor, but Aleksander keeps Lee at bay by connecting shots to the head and Muay Thai knees.  Lee throws combinations and mixes it up, but is unable to land any damaging blows on the Big Russian.  Finally, Aleksander drops Lee with a six-shot combination and the referee jumps in at 2:40 of the first round.

Best Match / Worst Match: In a recap show like this, it’s difficult to assign best / worst honors.  All  these matches had their merits, and were broadcast for various factors.  That said, Sidelnikov vs. Szoltysik offered a fun KO finish among heavyweights, Mousasi vs. Mensing and Zayats vs. Cornett had fast-paced back-and-forth action, and Gibbs vs. Sultanov saw a submission victory among heavyweights, which are usually pretty exciting.  The superfights were short and provided the finishes that most would have expected.

The next episode of M-1 Challenge will be the championship finals, when Team Holland goes against Team Russia Red Devil.

M-1 Challenge: Team Spain vs. World Team

Posted in M-1 Challenge, TV Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2009 by jaytan716

With the championship battle lines drawn between Group A’s Team Holland and Group B’s Team Russia Red Devil, tonight’s M-1 Challenge is a war for moral victory, as Team Spain and the World Team look to end the year on a winning note.  Both sit at the bottom of the Group B standings, tied at 1-2 in team challenges.  Spain is just slightly ahead of the World Team in individual fights, 6-9 to 5-10.  A World Team victory of any score will at least tie them with Spain in team challenges and individual fights.  Likewise, if Team Spain can earn four victories tonight, they’ll finish the year with a 10-10 record, which will just put them over third place Team Japan.

As always, announcers Sean Wheelock and Fight Quest’s Jimmy Smith are on-hand to call the matches.  This meet originally took place on November 26, 2008 in Kisahalli in Helsinki, Finland.

Lightweight Division:    Juha-Pekka Vaininkainen (Team Spain) vs.  Jose Luis Zapater  (World Team)

Vaininkainen and Zapater both make their M-1 debuts tonight.  Vaininkainen has built a respectable 9-4 record, mostly in Finland’s “Fight Festival” promotion.  Zapater is probably more of a featherweight, weighing in at 149 lbs.

Round One:  Vaininkainen has a tremendous height advantage.  Zapater shoots in right away, but Vaininkainen stuffs it and clinches up.  Vaininkainen literally has to lean over on Zapater to keep his overhook grip.  Zapater finally gets Vaininkainen to the ground, but is caught in a high guard that prevents him from doing any damage.  Finally, the referee stands them up, and right away, Vaininkainen clubs Zapater with a straight left that drops him and ends the match at 2:00 of the first round.

The World Team wins the first match, 1-0.

Welterweight Division:  Jose Beltran (Team Spain) vs.  Jason Ponet (World Team)

Nineteen-year old Jason Ponet is one of M-1’s youngest prospects.  His previous M-1 Challenge match was a decision win over Sergey Verdesh.  He literally faces a fighter “old enough to be his daddy.”  Beltran has dropped down from light heavyweight, where he lost in controversy to a left body kick from Tatsuya Mizuno (Team Japan).

Round One:  Beltran sports long tight pants, ala Andy Souer or Shinya Aoki.  Beltran and Ponet take their time feeling each other out, although both look game for battle.  Beltran throws some stiff low kicks and goes for a takedown as Ponet swings a combination.  Ponet is all over the place, moving at different angles, whereas Beltran is staying in the middle.  Referee Marcel Homeijer steps in and warns them both that he wants action, much to the support of the crowd.  They trade leather a bit more, but nobody makes real contact.  Beltran finally tries to shoot, but Ponet responds with Muay Thai knees and pushes Beltran to the ground.  Beltran immediately goes for a toehold and gets the tap out at 3:33.

Team Spain ties it up at 1-1.

Middleweight Division:  Rafael Rodriguez (Team Spain) vs.  Jordan Radev (World Team)

Radev, a world-class wrestler originally from Bulgaria, is a seasoned veteran who won his last M-1 Challenge match by split decision against Yuya Shirai of Team Japan.  Rodriguez, eight years the elder, fought in the M-1 Challenge this year at light heavyweight and middleweight, losing both matches, including one to Shirai.

Round One:  Rodriguez looks out of place and nervous as he circles Radev widely.  Radev throws a kick-punch combination that’s just enough to push Rodriguez to the ground.  He jumps on Rodriguez and takes his back, slipping his hooks in.  Radev doesn’t quite have his arm sunk in underneath Rodriguez’s the chin, but he’s apparently got just enough to pull up on the neck and throat, as referee Mika Sinkkonen unfittingly stops the fight at 1:08 of the first round, much to the surprise of everyone.  Rodriguez and his corner are incensed, as Rodriguez did not look at all like he was in trouble.  The decision is declared a technical submission / referee stoppage.

This is something akin to a TKO / referee stoppage in that the decision to end the match can be a subjective judgment by the referee to protect the safety of the fighters.  The same decision was used in the Tim Sylvia-Frank Mir match in 2004, although Rodriguez was nowhere near the same level of injury or danger that Sylvia was.

World Team pulls ahead again, 2-1.

Light Heavyweight Division: Enoc Solves Torres (Team Spain) vs. Valdas Pocevicius (World Team)

Solves is making his M-1 Challenge debut and possibly his MMA debut, depending on who you ask.  Pocevicius is a veteran of over 30 matches, fighting since 2001.  Gotta love non-regulation territories.

Round Two (joined in progress):  Solves is ready to go, standing in the middle of the ring before the bell sounds.  Jimmy Smith mentions that Solves probably won round one.  Both men are cautious to engage.  Solves takes Pocevicius down with an outside trip from the clinch.  He follows up with some ground-and-pound, but ends up in the guard.  Pocevicius keeps throwing heel strikes to Solves’ lower back, which referee Marco Broersen strangely admonishes.  Pocevicius keeps Solves tight, but the Spaniard is able to get to his feet and pass the guard.  He pounds away from the side and almost gets Pocevicius’ back, but Pocevicius escapes to his feet.  The crowd starts to rally, but this being in Helsinki, and with no Finns in the match, I’m not quite sure for whom.  Solve shoots for two takedowns, one of which Pocevicius stops with help from the ropes.  The ref gives him a yellow card warning.  Solves attacks again and ends up with a front headlock, throwing some knees for action.  The ref restarts them standing, but we get little exchange before the round ends.

Judges award the match to Enoc Solves Torres.  The suspense continues, with Team Spain tying it up 2-2.  It comes down to the heavyweights.

Heavyweight Division:  Rogent Lloret (Team Spain) vs.  Michael Kita (World Team)

Lloret is 2-0 since making his M-1 Challenge debut in June of last year, taking a pair of decision wins over Akmed Sultanov (Team Russia Legion) and Yuji Sakuragi (Team Japan).  Kita went 2-1 in the first half of the year, but hasn’t fought since being knocked out by MMA bad boy Gilbert Yvel in May 2008.

Round One:  Although Lloret and Kita are listed has having only three pounds difference, Kita’s body looks significantly larger, like 20+ pounds.  Kita’s come to play, however, as he charges in with a combination that pushes Lloret back.  Lloret responds with a takedown attempt that Kita uses to throw Lloret to the ground.  Lloret tries unsuccessfully for a kneebar, but he transitions to top position, inevitably getting full mount. Kita holds a tight bodylock, but Lloret is composed and pushing Kita’s head down.  Kita tries to escape by spinning out the back door, but Lloret catches his back and keeps the match grounded.  As Kita fights to pull out, Lloret transitions to a straight armbar for the tap out at 2:09 in the first round.

In a fast-paced series of matches, Team Spain comes from behind and takes the win in a very back-and-forth team challenge, 3-2.  This gives them enough to tie Team Japan for third place, ending the season with a 2-2 record in team challenges and a 9-11 showing in individual fights.  The World Team ends the season 1-3 in team challenges and 7-13 in individual fights.

Today’s episode includes a superfight from M-1’s April 3rd event at the Ice Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Superfight:  Roman Zentsov vs. Daniel Tabera

Round One:  Both men start out trepidatious.  Zentsov gets the trip takedown off a clinch and works for a keylock.  Tabera escapes and reverses position.  He’s composed on top and rides Zentsov to take the Big Russian’s back.  Zentsov eventually shakes Tabera off, working underneath the north-south and to his feet, but Tabera has clamped on a standing guillotine.  Zentsov isn’t giving in, and finally escapes when Tabera throws a knee.  Tabera gets Zentsov to the ground again, in side position until the round ends.

Round Two:  Tabera shoots from afar, but Zentsov sprawls and takes the mount.  Tabera gets the full mount with a sweep and whizzer, but he’s too high and Zentsov reverses position out the back door.  Referee Yuji Shimada doesn’t tolerate much inaction before he restarts them standing.  Tabera with a lead left jab and Zentsov with a right kick.   Zentsov is stalking Tabera around the ring, throwing a high kick that just grazes his head.  Clinching against the ropes, Tabera works for a bodylock.  Referee Shimada separates them again.  Tabera pushes the action, but Zentsov lands a big knee as he fades back.  Zentsov pushes back with strikes and has Tabera wobbling, but he doesn’t capitalize.  Tabera shoots, but Zentsov holds him at bay with a front bodylock.  Tabera is on the ground as the second round ends.

Amidst a rather partisan crowd, hometown favorite Roman Zentsov takes the decision victory.  Jimmy Smith sees it differently.

Best Match**: Roman Zentsov vs. Daniel Tabera – Great transitions and action with these heavyweights.

Worst Match**: Rodriguez x Radev – The early referee stoppage really takes away from what could have been an exciting, action-packed match.

**(based on footage aired)

Next week will be a recap of the 2008 M-1 Challenge, as well as two superfights – Aleksander Emelianenko vs. Sang-soo Lee and Gilbert Yvel vs. Alexander Timonov.

M-1 Challenge TV Report: Team France vs. Team Finland

Posted in M-1 Challenge, TV Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2009 by jaytan716

With happy New Year regards to everybody, we start 2009 with one of the closing rounds in the M-1 Challenge.

Thus far, ten teams from nine different countries, split into two different groups, have fought a round-robin tournament internationally throughout the year.  Last week, Team Holland defeated Team Russia Legion, claiming first place in Group B.  They will square off later against Group A champions Team Russia Red Devil.  This week, Team France & hometown favorites Team Finland vie for a second place finish in Group A.

As of now, Finland and France are neck-and-neck in the standings.  Both are 2-1 in team challenges, although Finland is just slightly ahead in individual challenges, trumping France 9-6 to 8-7.  As such, a win by either team will vault them to a 3-1 record over.  However, France will have to win by 4-1 or better in individual fights in order to finish with a stronger record than Finland.

As always, announcers Sean Wheelock and Fight Quest’s Jimmy Smith are on-hand to call the matches.  This meet originally took place on November 26, 2008 in Kisahalli in Helsinki, Finland.

Lightweight Division:  Maktar Gueye (Team France) vs. Niko Puhakka (Team Finland)

Gueye is 2-1 in overall M-1 action, splitting a win (Mikhail Malutin at lightweight) and loss (Erik Oganov at welterweight) against Team Russia Red Devil in previous years.  Puhakka is 2-1 in this year’s M-1 Challenge, with wins over David Martinez (Team Spain) and Kim Jong-man (Team Korea).

Round Two (joined in action):  Jimmy Smith gives the first round to Puhakka, 10-9, for control on the ground.  Not surprisingly, Gueye is anxious to push the action and controls the pace on the feet.  Puhakka circles the ring, looking for an opening and avoiding Gueye’s strikes.  Puhakka finally gets the takedown as Gueye swings a left hook.  Fans are into this match, cheering and chanting.  Puhakka works the body as he tries to pass guard.  Gueye is pretty active on the ground, throwing combinations and some elbows.  Puhakka starts to strike effectively from the top as the round ends.

Both men kept busy during round two, and Puhakka was on top for most of the round, but the judges see this as Gueye’s round.  As such, we go into a third round overtime.

Round Three:  Puhakka again is careful to engage.  Gueye drops him with a low left kick, but gets right back up.  Puhakka works hard for a takedown, finally forcing top position with a trip.  Gueye engages from the bottom, swinging away at times and also tying Puhakka’s arms up to nullify any ground-and-pound assault.  Puhakka gets side control right at the bell.  Close round, but I’d give it to Gueye.

Judges award the match to Niko Puhakka, giving Team Finland the first point of the night, 1-0.

Welterweight Division:  Farouk Lakebir (Team France) vs. Janne Tulirinta (Team Finland)

Lakebir, a relative latecomer to the sport, has not fared well in this year’s M-1 Challenge, going 1-2 this year, with his sole win being a decision win in March against Erik Oganov of Team Red Devil.  Tulirinta was stopped by Oganov in June by TKO, but won his two M-1 Challenge matches prior to that.  Today, Lakebir and Tulirinta look to end the year on a high note.

Round One:  Lakebir starts the striking right away.  They clinch up and exchange knees while jockeying for position.  Lakebir tries to use his body weight to spin Tulirinta down, but Tulirinta braces himself, drops down, and ends up on top.  Lakebir works for an armbar from below, but Tulirinta is swinging punches from above.  About halfway through the match, Lakebir looks to his corner, then to the referee, who suddenly stops the match at 2:23.  Lakebir is doubled over by a shoulder injury that prevents him from continuing.  Tulirinta is awarded the win by TKO / referee stoppage.

Team Finland takes a 2-0 lead.  Lakebir is in serious anguish, needing his cornerman to help support his left arm.

Middleweight Division:  Karl Amoussou (Team France) vs. Lucio Linhares (Team Finland)

This has been one of the more anticipated matches in this year’s M-1 Challenge.  It’s striker vs. grappler here, as Brazilian-born Linhares is a Jiu-Jitsu black belt, while Amoussou is a vicious kickboxer and judoka whom some have compared to a young Wanderlei Silva.

Round One:  Linhares throws the first strikes but Amoussou responds with combinations that push Linhares to the ground.  Amoussou takes top position, but Linhares neutralizes Amoussou in a closed guard, almost catching the Frenchman in a triangle.  Standing up, Linhares follows up with a powerful right straight that drops the Frenchman.  Amoussou wraps Linhares in a closed guard that Linhares actually carries while standing.  Amoussou starts throwing head kicks from the bottom.  As this is going on, Linhares actually tries complaining to referee Marcel Homeijer, who doesn’t know enough to call the foul.  I guess you have to be kicked in the head before you can claim the foul of being kicked in the head.  But Linhares continues with ground and pound, passing Amoussou’s guard, taking full mount, and securing a juji-gatame armbar.  Amoussou pushes Linhares away, but Linhares takes full mount again with 30 seconds left in the round.  He rains lefts and rights down on Karl Amoussou until the ref stops the match with six seconds left in the round.

Lucio Linhares wins the match and leads Team Finland to a 3-0 lead, thus securing the team challenge victory against Team France.

Light Heavyweight Division: Christian M’Pumbu (Team France) vs. Marcus Vanttinen (Team Finland)

This is Vanttinen’s M-1 Challenge debut, but he enters with an impressive 8-0 MMA legacy.  M’Pumbu has only fought in M-1 once, scoring a TKO stoppage against Barry Guerin (Team USA).

Round One:  Vanttinen comes in with a significant height and age difference.  They clash with a body lock.  M’Pumbu trips Vanttinen to the ground, going into the Finn’s closed guard.  Vanttinen keeps a tight high guard, pushing some offense from the bottom.  M’Pumbu tries to pass guard, standing up, and almost getting north-south, when Vanttinen rotates around.  Unfortunately, Vanttinen rotates his back right into M’Pumbu, who locks in a ridiculously tight rear naked choke that Jimmy Smith refers to as a “lion killer.”  Vanttinen taps out at 2:25 of the first round.

M’Pumbu’s victory gives France their first victory of the night, preventing a clean sweep by Team Finland.

Heavyweight Division:  Moussa Niangane (Team France) vs. Toni Valtonen (Team Finland)

Valtonen, 15-8 as a light heavyweight, moves up one weight class to fight Niangane, a European San Da / San Shou champion who makes his MMA debut tonight.  Niangane himself weighed in at 206, to Valtonen’s 229 lbs.  You gotta be kidding me.

Round One:  Valtonen takes Niangane down with a body lock.  Eventually, he gets the full mount, and spins around to side position.  Niangane is completely out of his element on the bottom, almost rolling to give up his back.  Valtonen takes top position again, then sits on Niangane’s chest for the spinning armbar.  Niangane immediately taps out at 2:00 of the first round.

Team Finland definitively claims second place in the Group B standings, with a 3-1 team challenge record and 13-7 in individual fights, compared with Team France’s 2-2 team challenge and 9-11 individual fight finish.

Best Match**: Karl Amoussou vs. Lucio Linhares.  This was one of the most anticipated matches in the M-1 Challenge, and it delivered.  Linhares landed the knockdown of the night with his right straight on Amoussou, and his impromptu complaining about Amoussou’s head kicks made for a particularly dangerous moment.  For Linhares to regain control from there and claim victory is the kind of exciting finish that makes MMA great.

Worst Match**: There wasn’t a particularly bad match on this show.  The Lakebir vs. Tulirinta match was hurt by an unfortunate non-finish, although both fighters were working hard up until that point.  Niangane vs. Valtonen was certainly a mismatch of experience, although not a particularly boring fight.

**(based on footage aired)

Next week, the World Team and Team Spain duke it out to see who escapes from the last place “basement placement.”